Find a gay-friendly Wedding Venue and Budget Ideas
Once you have an idea of budget and how many people you want to invite, you can start looking for a venue to accommodate your 500 close friends! Your ideas might change once you have looked at a few, so keep an open mind. You may find you fall in love with somewhere that can hold only 50 people, or one that is so expensive you can afford to invite only 20. You may be looking for a venue to suit either your theme or the timing of your wedding. For example, if you want a winter wedding, you might choose a castle that is dressed for Christmas, or a summer wedding would suit a country house with grounds. For the actual civil partnership ceremony, you can use any registry office or licensed wedding venue in the country. This means that they hold a civil wedding licence, not an alcohol licence, but obviously both are important. If you don’t fancy the municipal nature of some registry offices, they will give you a list of licensed wedding venues in the area – there are over 3,500 of them in the UK, ranging from castles to racecourses, hotels to country barns, and even the London Eye.
You can search for licensed wedding venues by postcode or town on the General Register Office website:
• in England and Wales at: gro*gov*uk
• in Scotland at: gro-scotland*gov*uk
• and in Northern Ireland at: groin*gov*ukA good site for finding unusual venues listed by category is civilvenuesuk*com.
Some licensed venues are promoting themselves as gay-friendly. You can look on gay-friendly-weddingvenues*com, of course, or other websites, such as pinlcweddings.biz or modern- commitments*co*uk.
Wedding Venue Limitations to Comply With
All licensed wedding venues have a limit on the number of people who can attend the ceremony, even if they can actually cater for more. So you may want to have the ceremony at a registry office and then the reception at another venue, inviting some people to the ceremony and more to the reception. Wherever you decide to hold the event, you have to ‘give notice’ of your intention to have a civil partnership at your local registry office.
Choose a venue that your guests would find interesting and that has decent public transport links so that they can drink as much as they like without having to worry about driving home. Meet the operations manager/ conference manager prior to the event and go through everything in detail. If they aren’t helpful, find another venue. On the day, arrive early and go through everything again, make sure all the technical equipment works and that either you know how to use it, or someone will be on hand to put it right. There are bound to be things that go wrong, but your guests don’t know what to expect, so just work your way around it… so long as there’s plenty of alcohol, no-one will notice!
Choosing a Special Wedding Venue Type
If money is no object, you can hire a venue such as a castle, country house or stylish restaurant for exclusive use. Some swish venues allow you to arrive by helicopter or private plane, or float down in a hot-air balloon.
Religious building as Your Wedding Venue
You are not yet allowed to hold a civil partnership ceremony in a religious building – it has to be a secular ceremony. However, there are a number of buildings with a wedding licence that are former churches, or that have a spiritual or religious connection. However, you are not allowed to have any religious content in the readings or vows of a civil partnership, although if you can find a celebrant who is willing to officiate, you can have a blessing after the civil ceremony.
Gay Wedding Venue
To keep it all ‘in the family’, you may want to hold your wedding or reception in a gay pub, club, hotel or restaurant. Many can be hired for private functions and some have wedding licences. Additionally, they may already be themed, which will save you decorating them, and they may have sound systems and resident DJs to make sure your party goes with a swing. If you are new to an area, look out for rainbow flags or stickers in windows, or check out the Internet or magazines for local gay listings.
Hotel as Your Wedding Venue
The vast majority of licensed wedding venues are hotels with a choice of room for the ceremony and reception. The advantage is that your guests don’t need to stagger far for their accommodation and even if you don’t want to stay there, you are usually offered a complimentary room in which to change outfits, have a fag break, or escape from Auntie Maud.
Many hotels offer wedding packages with a per head price that includes drinks, food, room hire, accommodation and all the services you would expect. They usually have a wedding co-ordinator who will talk you through all aspects of the day and can arrange a florist, DJ, red carpet, help with seating plans and be the master or mistress of ceremonies on the day.
Spa Hotel as Your Wedding Venue
If you want a truly relaxing wedding, hold your civil partnership in a spa hotel. Treat yourself to a mud wrap, thermal bath, or dip in an ozone pool before you tie the knot. You can’t actually hold the ceremony in the spa, but most are located in hotels, so you can have the formalities in the function rooms and then get your kit off for an unusual reception. A spa is also a good place to hold your hen or stag night if that is your thing – some have specific days or nights for each gender.
Castle as Your Wedding Venue
Imagine tying the knot in a romantic castle with fairy tale turrets, a moat and manicured lawns. Many castles have to be hired on an exclusive basis, which can set you back a few bob, but does provide perfect privacy. Some castles are privately owned and can provide a unique insight into how the other half lives – why not pretend to be queens for the day! Marquees Some venues, such as licensed hotels or castles that have smaller rooms for the ceremony, often offer the option of hiring a marquee for the party afterwards so that you can entertain more friends.
Country house as Your Wedding Venue
If you love a sense of history, a country house can add a touch of class to your wedding day, and if you want a venue on an exclusive-use basis, with plenty of privacy, hiring a country house could be a good answer.
Restaurant as Your Wedding Venue
Some restaurants have wedding licences, so the ceremony can be swiftly followed by a slap-up meal. However, in any restaurant or venue, you aren’t allowed to serve food or drink before a civil partnership ceremony, in case you are inebriated by the time you sign on the dotted line! Restaurants can also be a good option for a separate reception since you can often hire them exclusively.
Pubs or inns as Your Wedding Venue
There are over 100 pubs in the UI< with civil wedding licences and, of course, you can usually hire a private room upstairs, or take over the whole venue for a reception.
Village hall or community centre as Your Wedding Venue
Some village halls have wedding licences so you can conduct the whole event there, but the fact they have a licence usually makes them twice as expensive to hire as an unlicensed hall. A good budget option is to have your reception in the local village hall, especially if friends and family can help with the catering and decorating, although getting caterers in will save you having to clear up after your own wedding. You can probably supply your own booze, so that knocks down the price. Some halls also offer a discount if you live locally.
Think about whether you need to hire a bouncer or someone to keep an eye on security, especially if you have presents or guests’ belongings on show. Consider having someone to host or manage the event for you – perhaps hire a toastmaster or appoint a guest as a master of ceremonies, because unlike at other venues, you may not have someone in a management role. A useful website is hallshire*com, which lists more than 400 village halls for hire.
Unusual Wedding Venues
A good site for finding unusual venues listed by category, such as private schools, is civilvenuesuk*com.
Zoos and safari parks – Some zoos and safari parks have wedding licences and offer unusual options.
Sports venue for Your Wedding – Many sports venues have excellent catering facilities and some are licensed to hold weddings. Venues range from football clubs and racecourses to golf, sailing and rugby clubs. However, with any sports venue you should ensure that your preferred date doesn’t clash with fixtures, which often take place on the weekends, and aren’t always known a long time in advance, being dependent on results. But these venues can provide a grand and stylish setting, with exclusive use midweek or outside the sport’s season.
Academic institutions – If you fancy sipping champagne in the quad and being punted off down the river to your honeymoon, a number of universities have wedding licences, including some Oxford and Cambridge colleges. Over twenty public schools also have civil wedding licences. You may be restricted to having a wedding outside term-time, but with the long holidays, this should not be too much of a problem.
Museums and arts venues for Your Wedding – Add a little history to your special day by holding your civil partnership ceremony in a museum. Or, if you like a bit of drama, a number of theatres have civil wedding licences. You can also get married in some cinemas, galleries, concert halls, arts centres, or film studios. Private club as Your Wedding Venue – If you like that exclusive feel, a number of private clubs are available for hire. Ships, boats and piers – If you fancy a nautical theme or a captain in uniform, how about a wedding aboard a ship or cruising down the Thames on a pleasure boat?
Planes, trains, etc. – Believe it or not, you can actually get married at an airport. Shoreham Airport is a gay-friendly venue with a civil wedding licence. If you have a pilot licence, you can take off on your honeymoon straight away! You can also tie the knot in the Concorde viewing lounge at Manchester Airport. If you are a real trainspotter, you can tie the knot at over eight different railway centres.
Gardens or parklands – Strictly speaking, a civil partnership has to be indoors; however, it is only the signing of the register that is the legal part. Some venues have engineered it so that the ceremony starts on the terrace overlooking the gardens, with a welcome or reading, and then the couple go inside for the formalities, although guests can still hear the proceedings outside. They then go back out to exchange rings in front of the guests. In the UK, there are over 40 venues set in extensive gardens or parklands that hold a wedding licence.
Alternatively, a good budget option is to hire a camping barn or a field and ask your friends to literally pitch up with drinks, food and tents. It’s a good idea to also hire a barn in case of bad weather or at least have a pub nearby. Some campsites belong to farms, so bed and breakfast is often available for guests who don’t like camping. Barns – If you like a bit of line-dancing, you could hire a barn for your wedding. There are over twenty with wedding licences, some in magnificent surroundings. Barns Farms also conjure up country and western themes, offering a rural, isolated setting with plenty of privacy and space. There are over twenty farms with wedding licences around the UK. Other unusual venues – they include a bingo hall in Cricklewood, North London; a brewery in Wrexham; mines in Somerset, Cornwall and Wales; Brighton Sea Life Centre; Fortnum and Mason in London; a part of Tower Bridge in London; and a vineyard in Surrey. At Denbies Wine Estate in Surrey, for example, your guests can enjoy a winery tour, cinema experience and tasting in the cellars.
Wedding Venue Money-saving tips
• Hold your civil partnership on a weekday or outside the peak summer season, which is May to September.
• Hire a venue for the ceremony itself and hold the reception at home.
• Hire a venue only and either do your own catering or hire caterers.
• Find venues where you supply the booze.
• Hold the reception in a gay bar and ask people to pay for their own drinks.
• Invite only close friends and family to the ceremony and have a separate larger party later.
Questions to ask when you first contact a Wedding Venue
• Is the venue licensed to carry out civil partnership ceremonies?
• Have they had a gay wedding before?
• What are the contact details for the nearest registrar?
• Is the venue available on the required date or selection of dates?
• Can they send you a brochure and price list?
• How many people can the venue accommodate for the ceremony and catering?
• How much overnight accommodation is available?
• How many car parking spaces are available?
• Can you hire the venue on an exclusive-use basis?
• Will there be other weddings on the same day?
• Can you make a provisional booking?
• When do you need to confirm?
• How much do you have to pay as a deposit?
• Does the venue have any special discount arrangements with local suppliers?
• Can you see sample menus?
• Are outside caterers allowed?
• If the venue is open to the public, when is it available for hire?
• What are the contingencies if the weather is bad?
• Where is the nearest public transport/airport, etc.?
• Do you have to pay extra for the hire of tables, chairs, linen, dance floors?
• Are there any restrictions (for example, no stilettos, no red wine, no children, no disabled access)?
• Can they give you ideas for themes or decoration from other weddings?
• Do you need to hire any technical equipment, such as lights or a PA system?
To get some idea of price, ask the following:
• Cost of room hire for ceremony
• Cost of room hire for catering
• Starting price for wedding packages – what does this include?
• Can you supply your own alcohol?
• If so, is there any corkage cost?
• Cost of a bottle of house white/red wine « Cost of a bottle of house champagne
• Any minimum spend on catering
• Minimum cost of a sit-down meal per head
• Minimum cost of a buffet meal per head 0 Cost of accommodation
• Any extra costs (for example, hire of cake stand and knife)
• Do prices include VAT?
Detailed questions before you book the Wedding Venue
• Do they allow confetti to be thrown at the venue?
• Can you bring your own band or DJ?
• Do they allow candles to be lit in the reception room?
• Do they allow professional firework displays at their venue?
• Do they have landing permission if you want to arrive by helicopter, balloon or private jet?
• Do they offer the option of a marquee?
• Are there separate rooms provided for the wedding, reception, meal, evening reception?
• Is there a changing room provided for the day?
• What is the latest finishing time?
• Does the venue supply any flowers or decoration?
• Can the venue provide someone to act as the master of ceremonies for the day?
• Does the venue have a Public Address (PA) system for speeches?
• When can suppliers have access to begin setting up the rooms, e.g. florists, decorators, DJ?
• Is there any creche or babysitting facility?
• When does the reception room need to be cleared by?
• Is there somewhere safe to store presents?
• What is the checkout time from accommodation?
• Where are the best photo opportunities?
Wedding Venue Decoration Ideas
Decorating the venue is a major part of expressing the style or theme of your wedding. Even if you don’t feel you have a strong theme or style, by co-ordinating your flowers, decoration and outfits, you will develop a look for the day. One of the main ways to decorate your venue is by using flowers, and you can also use balloons, drapes, props, candles and lanterns. You are limited only by your imagination and budget.
When you get your estimates keep them on file or record in the Budget Planner, then when you have decided on the best price and supplier, fill in the final column of the planner.
Flower Decorations at the Wedding Venue
You can book a floral designer to decorate your wedding venue, or buy your own flowers and ask friends and family to help you with the arrangements. If you want to book a floral designer for a summer wedding, you need to start talking to them as soon as possible, since reputable ones are usually very busy over the summer season. Think carefully about how much you want to spend on flowers and where you want them displayed. Choose flowers that are in season to ensure best value for money.
Options for displaying flowers for the ceremony
• Corsage – like a broach of flowers, usually for women
• Hall and table displays e Garlands
• For wedding car
Options for displaying flowers for the reception
• Top table
• Table centres
• Floating candles with fresh petals
• Pedestal arrangements
• Presentation bouquets
• Cake table decoration
Top Tips for Flower Decoration at the Wedding Venue
• Find out when florists are attending any wedding fairs, so that you can view their work.
• Even if you have a generous budget, set a maximum spend, so that the florist knows their boundaries.
• Make sure flowers are delivered in time, but are not arranged more than a day in advance or they may start to wilt.
• Don’t have huge table arrangements that people can’t see over or round – they get in the way of conversation and food.
• Be aware of certain flowers, such as lilies, which have pollen that can stain.
• Place your flower decorations on a mirror to give them more depth and reflected light.
• An odd number of the major flower in each arrangement is better than an even number.
• Incorporate fruit or vegetables into your arrangements.
• A single flower in a vase, particularly an orchid, can look stunning.
Money-saving tips for flower decoration
• Before duplicating effort and cost, check whether the venue or registry office have their own floral displays.
• Use flowering plants in attractive pots as a centrepiece – for example, poinsettias, lavender or miniature roses – and then give them away to your guests who played a special role on the day.
• Share the cost of flowers with other couples having ceremonies in the same venue at the same time.
• Fill out your bouquets or arrangements with cheaper flowers, green sprigs, herbs, pine cones, etc.
• If you are doing your own arrangements, buy your flowers from local markets. (If you live near enough and don’t mind getting up in the middle of the night, you could go to New Covent Garden Market in Battersea, south London. It is open Monday to Friday 03.00 to 11.00 and on Saturdays from 04.00 to 10.00, but it’s best to get there before 06.00. It’s a wholesale market, so it is up to individual traders if they want to sell to the public, but if you are going for large quantities they probably won’t refuse. There is a small charge for parking.)
• Buy cheap vases from stores, or borrow them from friends.
• Co green and recycle jars and bottles for a centrepiece, or visit local car boot sales and see what’s available cheaply.
Scrapbook Your Ideas for the Wedding Venue Decorations
Make a scrapbook of all the ideas you like, such as colors, designs of rooms and photographs of flowers. Also keep a record of things you don’t like. If possible, let the florist or a friend who is helping see your outfits, or at least give them an idea of colors. This will help them to design the perfect look for your day.
Make sure you match the flowers to the occasion. Obviously, if you are having a formal affair with morning suits and top hats, you’ll want formal arrangements. If you are having a casual free-for-all, choose wild-looking arrangements that look like they’ve just been put together randomly in a vase. The flowers should also match or complement the rest of your color scheme.
Take a Florist Consultation for the Wedding Venue
Most venues have a few florists who they work with regularly and who also know the best way to decorate the space. Don’t be afraid to have two or three consultations with florists to get different quotes and ideas. Ask to view their design book so you can see what they have done for other weddings.
It is best to visit the venue with your florist to check what colors will suit the de’cor. They should also know what would fit the size of the venue – for example, tall vases can be better in rooms with high ceilings.
The first consultation should be a free no-obligation consultation where you discuss everything from the type of flowers through to the styles required for the wedding party and venue. Have a set budget in mind and find out what the florist can do for that sort of price. Be prepared to be flexible, but if your initial ideas turn out to be expensive, a good florist should be able to come up with a few stylish alternatives. The florist should then provide a written estimate to confirm everything, which will enable you to look at areas where you may like to add or possibly reduce costs.
You should then meet or at least speak to the florist a few weeks before the wedding to confirm any alterations and finalise details.
Impressive Flower Decoration Ideas for the Wedding Venue
If you want to be really extravagant, decorate with orchids, cala lilies or exotic plants. Or, if you want an expensive look with-out costing the earth, go for contemporary, minimalist styles or consider incorporating less expensive flowers in the arrangements.
Some experts in event services companies suggest: if you’re really looking for extravagance and want to adorn everywhere with flowers, take a look at your main photographic areas first, as this is where the money will be well spent and seen for many years to come in your photographs.
To create a big wow factor, position a huge floral display where guests can see it as they enter the room for the ceremony, and then have it moved into the reception room. Another option that looks opulent is to hire topiary trees with lights, either dotted around the venue or used to form an aisle. You could also form an archway of flowers, using a wooden or metal trellis as the base.
For something unusual, a famous floral designer suggests incorporating fruit and vegetables in your flower displays – for example, pile apples and berries in a tall glass vase, and then fill with flowers.
Wedding Bouquet Preservation
Preserving Traditionally, wedding bouquets, some wedding bouquets are preserved as a keepsake. There are companies that will preserve wedding flowers for you in frames, paperweights, jewellery boxes or in a domed case. A famous florist advises: ‘Make sure you arrange for the company to collect the bouquet or corsage the day after the wedding, since the flowers need to be as fresh as possible for professional drying or liquid preservation.’ She also advises telling your florist that you are planning to have the flowers preserved, as some designs cannot be put into water and so will wilt by the time the flowers are collected. Traditionally, brides have a bouquet of flowers, which they throw off extravagantly at the end of the day, for the next ‘bride to be’ to catch. Some famous florists say that you can make your own bouquets from a single stem of any flower tied with organza, lace, or ribbon. For something different, you could have a simple garland of flowers entwined around your wrist flowing down to the floor. Their advice is taking a needle and tough thread to make a string of flowers, and adding some pearl or diamante beads with a bead tied at either end so the flowers don’t drop off the bottom.
Warnings and Resolving Tips while Flower Decorating
If anyone in your wedding party suffers from hay fever, avoid lilies, jasmine, freesia and hyacinths, as these have a particularly high irritant effect. Another tip is to have any flowers that are destined to be worn or held sprayed with unperfumed hair spray, which will seal in any small pollen particles. For men on a tight budget, if you want a traditional buttonhole, you can buy simple roses or carnations from the local florist, or they will make them up into buttonholes for you. If money is no object, cala lilies look very extravagant as buttonholes.